High Court freezes new fees to NGO Board of Malawi

The High Court in Blantyre has put on hold new fees which the NGO board imposed following a court injunction obtained by council for non governmental organization.

Soko: An assault on the very tenets of democracy that Malawians fought hard for in 1994

Lawyers from Mambulasa law firm argued in court that the new fees could not be implemented because the board was working illegally because it had not been gazetted.

They also argued that the board can only apply the new fees after exhausting all the consultation processes.

Until January 1 2018, the annual fees payable by NGOs was K50 000 and the registration fees was also K50 000.

But effective January 1 2018, fees have been increased by as much as 2 000 percent, ranging from K100 000 for NGOs with annual incomes of less than K100 million to K2 million for those earning above K2 billion annually.

A consortium of NGOs among them Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC), Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec), Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn), Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) under the Human Rights Defenders Forum Malawi Chapter have, however, described the new fees as a huge step backwards for freedom of association and an attempt to stifle civil society and drive them underground.

“This is an assault on the very tenets of democracy that Malawians fought hard for in 1994,” reads a statement  signed by Human Rights Defenders Forum chairperson Timothy Mtambo, secretary Khumbo Soko and vice chairperson Gift Trapence.

“We, in the civil society call upon the government to reverse the fees and immediately start wide consultations with CSOs and all concerned parties on the matter in accordance with its domestic and international obligations to protect freedom of association,” it reads.

The NGOs have further urged the NGO Board to find other means of generating revenue, rather than punishing CSOs with such exorbitant fees.

But the NGO Board of Malawi has defended the fees arguing that they were based on the organisation’s assessment of the NGOs capacity to pay.

NGO Board chairperson Abigail Dzimadzi said the new fees are meant to meet the gap that is left after the government gives it the funding.

“Government funding to NGO Board has plateaud at K80 million, so right now we have to meet the gap. It is my hope that in future NGOs will not be required to pay fees, because we would have established alternative financing mechanisms,” she said.

Dzimadzi said the NGO Board’s has no intention of penalising any NGO because they serve the people

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